Tag Archives: Barcelona cemetery

Cemetery of the Week #148: Sagrada Familia


The rear of Sagrada Familia, with construction cranes. All photos by Loren Rhoads.

Sagrada Familia Basilica
c/ Mallorca 401
08013 Barcelona, Spain
Telephone: (34) 932 080 414
Founded: 1882
Number of Interments: 2
Open: The hours change on Holy Days and also according to the season. Entry is only available with a timed-entry ticket. Entry times do sell out, so book online in advance at http://www.sagradafamilia.org.

When it is finally completed, the Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família may be the most controversial church in the world. It is certainly the strangest looking. The BBC compared it to a gigantic stone cluster of termites’ nests or a gingerbread house baked by the wickedest witch of all. Even Salvador Dali admired its “terrifying and edible beauty.”

The foundation stone of the Expiatory Church of the Holy Family was laid by its first architect, Francisco de Paula del Villar, in 1882. A year and a half later, Antoni Gaudi took over the project, working on it for 43 years. The church is so enormous that 8000 people can worship there simultaneously.

img_6541Although the basilica became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, work on it continues today. Estimates vary from 10 to 50 years to complete construction. Just a reminder: although construction machinery may be working inside the sanctuary when you visit, the basilica is a “place for prayer, silence, and reflection.” Behave yourself.

On November 7, 2010, the church of La Sagrada Familia was consecrated as a basilica by Pope Benedict XVI. A basilica has special privileges, according to the Catholic church. Often they are built above the graves of saints.

At the age of 74, Gaudi was run down by a streetcar at the intersection of Carrer de Bailén and the Gran Vía in June 1926. Taxi drivers refused to believe the raggedy old man was not a beggar, so they refused to transport him to a hospital. Eventually, neighbors carried him to the Holy Cross charity hospital, where he died several days later.


Looking down into the crypt. The candles at the top of the photo burn at Gaudi’s grave.


Although few Barcelonans had actually met Gaudi, thousands dressed in black to line the streets as his body was carried back to the church he had designed and overseen for so many years. Gaudi’s grave is located in an underground chapel beneath the apse where the basilica’s main altar stands. A group called the Association for the Beatification of Antoni Gaudi is working to prove his holiness and set him on the road to sainthood.

img_6556In the meantime, devotion for Gaudi must be done privately. It cannot be done publicly until the Church beatifies him. The only way to visit his grave is to attend mass in the crypt, although they are only celebrated in Catalan and Spanish. The mass schedule is available online at http://www.sagradafamilia.org.

Gaudi’s chapel is dedicated to the Virgin of El Carmen, who is also called Stella Maris, the Queen of the Seas. She is the patron of fishermen and mariners.

Buried elsewhere in the crypt is Josep María Bocabella, who conceived the idea of building La Sagrada Familia. Bocabella was a printer of religious books who made a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Loreto in Italy. That church contains what is alleged to be the house in which the Archangel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary to announce her pregnancy. Angels carried the house to Italy in the 13th century, it was said, to save it from desecration.

An estimated 3 million people visit La Sagrada Familia each year, contributing an estimated 25 million euros annually to its construction costs.


BBC’s feature on Sagrada Familia

An article from 2000 said that so many people want to leave offerings at Gaudi’s tomb that a passage would be opened from the museum, but as of 2016, this had not been done.

Gaudi and Barcelona Club

Cemetery of the Week #147: Poblenou Cemetery


View inside Barcelona’s Poblenou Cemetery. All photos by Loren Rhoads.

Poblenou Cemetery
Cementiri de Poblenou
Avenida Icaria, s/n
08005 Barcelona, Spain
Telephone: 934 841 999
Email: cbsa@cbsa.cat
Website: http://www.cbsa.cat
Founded: 1775
Number of Interments: uncertain, since the cemetery was destroyed and rebuilt on the same spot.
Size: I can’t find the acreage anywhere, but it’s only an hour or two of exploration.
Open: Daily 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Poblenou Cemetery dates to 1775, when it was the first modern cemetery in Europe to be built outside its city’s walls. The original cemetery was destroyed by Napoleon’s troops in 1813. After the invasion, the graveyard was expanded and rebuilt by architect Antonio Ginesi. The Bishop of Barcelona re-consecrated it in April 1819.

Poblenou Cemetery is walking distance from Barcelona’s Yellow Line (Line Four) metro. Get off at Llacuna station and walk east on Carrer Ciutat de Granada four blocks toward the Mediterranean. The street dead-ends at the cemetery wall. Turn right and follow the wall around to the grand entrance. Good to know: there is no water for sale in the cemetery, but there is a corner store right outside the metro station. Make sure you have a small bill to make your purchases. They can’t change larger denominations.

img_6296Also called Cementiri de l’Este, Poblenou Cemetery is comprised of three sections. The first is a labyrinth of seven-story-high burial niches. That’s followed by a section filled with Neo-Gothic mausoleums and Gothic-style chapels built for Barcelona’s wealthiest families. The third section mixes niches, monuments, and common graves where the poor are buried.

The monuments include works by some of the most important sculptors and architects working in Barcelona in the 19th and 20th centuries. Plaques identify most of the significant works, so it’s possible to tour the cemetery by yourself. Pick up the free multilingual map from the cemetery office. While it doesn’t offer a lot of information beyond the names of the artists or architects responsible for the tombs you’ll visit, it will point you toward 30 breathtaking points of interest.

If you speak Spanish, the cemetery offers a free tour that covers about 100+ years of the history of the cemetery and the city it serves. The tour visits 30 tombs and lasts an hour and a half. It takes place the first and third Sundays of the month at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

img_6418The best-known grave monument in Poblenou marks the final resting place of textile manufacturer Josep Llaudet Soler. “El beso de la Muerte” (The Kiss of Death) was designed by Joan Fontbernat and carved by Jaume Barba in 1930. It is a larger-than-life marble of a young man slumped to his knees, being supported by a winged skeleton. Death bends over to touch her teeth to the youth’s brow. Make sure to walk all the way around the statue to appreciate all of its details.

img_6333Another lovely sculpture shows a winged angel raising the swooning soul of a maiden toward heaven. The sculpture, carved by Fabiesi, dates to 1880 and adorns the grave of Pere Bassegoda.

Also buried in Poblenou is “Santet” or Little Saint Francesc Canals I Ambros, who died in a fire at a neighbor’s home in 1899. The 22-year-old was selfless in life and is believed to have supernatural powers after death. People leave photos and flowers in the niches surrounding his grave.

Other famous Catalans are buried in Poblenou, including composer Josep Anselm Clave, politician Narcis Monturiol (who also invented a submarine), and film actress Mary Santpere.

Poblenou Cemetery is part of the Cemeteries Route in Europe, which leads visitors to some of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world: http://cemeteriesroute.eu/cemeteries.aspx


APP Cementiri de Poblenou is available at Google Play or for the iPhone at the App Store.

You can follow the cemetery on Twitter @cementirisbcn or on Facebook at cementirisdebarcelona.

Cemetery history: Barcelona Lowdown
Lovely photos: Free Art in Barcelona
A City’s Secrets Hidden in Tombs
A Hidden Beauty in Barcelona
Gone But Not Forgotten